"All Southerners are somehow, someway at least spiritually related to Elvis or damn sure believe this when they drink too much."
Doc Lawrence

 

HANK BALLARD

Hank Ballard, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the composer of songs like “The Twist” is dead.

Ballard, who also introduced the dance associated with his song, became a living legend in Rock and Rhythm and Blues. Along with his group, The Midnighters, Ballard recorded megahits like “Sexy Ways,” “Work With Me Annie,” and “Annie Had A Baby.” Ballard’s career spanned decades and preceded other icons like Elvis Presley who often said his music and style were greatly influenced by the singer-composer.

Hank Ballard and The Midnighters performed before well over a million people according to those who compile such statistics and his concerts ranged from football stadiums to southern fraternity houses on college campuses.

They were once the homecoming dance band at Florida State University in Tallahassee. I was there, and I was instrumental as a member of the Homecoming entertainment committee in Ballard’s selection. I take pride even today that I was able to convince faculty members that The Midnighters would be more appropriate than Woody Herman for alumni enjoyment. This was during the heyday of racial segregation, and Hank Ballard’s raunchy, sex-driven lyrics and an auditorium packed with deliriously intoxicated kids doing the twist caused some well-founded suspicion from university officials about my motives.

I wasn’t expelled, but my entertainment committee days came to a sudden end.

I last saw Hank Ballard at Atlanta’s Royal Peacock on Sweet Auburn Avenue. I was joined at the bar by then-retired Atlanta deejay legend “Alley Pat” Patrick. Through Hank’s four shows that night, I reveled in the raw power of his music and the irreverence of his lyrics. They were defiant and white stations to this day rarely give them play.

The Dirty Boogie, a variation of Jitterbug, was invented by some decent soul as a dance to accompany Hank Ballard’s music. It remains a perfect fit and I’m still looking for someone half my age that knows how to “work it.”

Hank Ballard was naughty on recordings and on the stage. In person, he was the sweetest person imaginable. His contributions to popular music the world over are immeasurable.

Thanks, Hank, for a lifetime of song, dance and laughter. Your music, which contained not a single profane word, has the best lyrics in rock.

Other pages:

The Blind Boys of Alabama

Waylon Jennings - My Favorite Outlaw

Atlanta's Freddy Cole

The X-Miss Americas

Jazz Funeral of a Crescent City legend

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra on tour

Opera Theatre in St. Louis

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